It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Christmas in the Clouds" is part romantic comedy, part screwball comedy, and part historic breakthrough. The history is made because the movie is about affluent Native American yuppies. So many movies about American Indians deal in negative stereotypes that it's nice to find one that takes place at an upscale Indian-owned ski resort. The only alcoholic in the cast is a white undercover investigator for a guide book.
The romance begins through a misunderstanding. Through an online dating service, Joe Clouds on Fire (Sam Vlahos) is paired off with Tina Pisati (MariAna Tosca). She's a chic New York professional woman, whose name sounds Italian but whose family name is Little Hawk. He's a likable codger whose son Ray Clouds on Fire (Tim Vahle) manages the resort. Joe has not been entirely honest about his age, and is about 30 years older than Tina. Meanwhile, the resort is expecting a surprise visit from the critic of luxury hotels, and Mary the reservations manager (Sheila Tousey) keeps an eagle eye for anyone checking in who looks like they can spell Zagat.
This is the setup for an Idiot Plot, in which all misunderstandings could be cleared up with one or two lines of dialogue. Yes, but some Idiot Plots are charming while most are merely dumb. This one I enjoyed, mostly because the actors have so much quiet fun with it. Of course Mary the manager thinks Tina Pisati is the critic. Of course Tina thinks that handsome young Ray is her pen pal, not crusty old Joe. And of course when Stu O'Malley checks in, no one fingers him as the critic, because he is grumpy, unkempt and half-loaded; it's M. Emmet Walsh, playing his usual role.
Tina is upgraded to a luxury corner suite. O'Malley gets shunted to a budget room, where he suffers from what passes for flu and may involve a large percentage of hangover. Tina has her eye on Ray. Ray thinks Tina is beautiful and sexy but refuses to cater to her because he is too ethical to kowtow to a critic. Old Joe knows the score but maintains a studious silence about his pen-pal correspondence, which no one at the resort knows about.